Warp Factor 9! Engage!

In the series Star Trek, the ships of the Federation, and their many friends and foes, are able to traverse great interstellar distances at speeds many ”factors” beyond the speed of light. In the original Star Trek Tech Manual there is a bizarre method of calculating these speeds that actually takes the speed of galactic rotation into account; Roddenberry actually hired real rocket scientists to advise the writers.

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According to Star Trek‘s high standard of scientific realism the ships were propelled by two large nacelles that acted like radio antennae that compressed gravity and formed a bubble around the ship creating an interior of ”subspace” which caused the ship to have zero measurable mass as observed from outside the bubble in normal space. The warp nacelles would then compress the bubble in the front of the ship and expand the bubble at the rear. The result of this compression would be forward motion with near infinite acceleration and speed limited only by the frequency of warp bubble compressions and power input to the nacelles.

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Now of course, the warp speed travel as depicted in Star Trek isn’t perfect, or we’d be using it. Although the theory is sound there are several flaws, some physics, mostly tech. The idea of the nacelles generating a warp field/bubble would not work in that configuration. The warp field generation would have to be elliptical and able to rotate for directional control, that’s even if you could figure out how to actually generate the field. Currently there are no known materials to generate those kind of complex magnetic fields and manipulate the strong and weak nuclear forces to create distortions in spacetime; I have to be careful here, there’s so much info on Einsteins relativity and field equations that sometimes my brain short circuits. The warp bubble theory itself is mathematically possible and there are even a few registered patents in the U.S. Patent Office for possible ways to generate artificial gravity. Unfortunately they all require something that truly does not exist. Negative Energy.

You see, there’s a huge problem with warp theory. Light speed travel isn’t enough for interstellar travel. It’s just not fast enough, even at light speed most stars would still be a lifetime or more away. You need faster than light (FTL) in order to explore the galaxy and have trade with other worlds. In order to go many magnitudes faster than the speed of light you’d have to have negative mass. Something strange happens in Einstein’s equations when a negative mass is used. You end up with a number that is a factor of the square root of -1, shown at the letter ”i” for imaginary. It can’t be done folks 🙁 No way yet to create negative energy without a blind singularity, and the Time Lords are the only one with an Eye of Harmony. Don’t be discouraged though! All hope is not lost.

NASA Warp Engine

Although warp theory is fairly unusable, it’s still being actively studied by NASA and many other scientists. Don’t forget get too that I’m strictly talking warp theory here. Space folding as described in the Dune universe is one of my personal faves. Based on the idea of Heisenberg’s uncertainty principles and magnetic resonance, this theory uses the Holtzman effect to fold space and literally travel anywhere almost instantly. It’s a mathematically sound theory and so far no imaginary numbers 🙂

Look! Worm sign!

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